A second chance in the second decade

Adolescence: a period needing special attention


Adolescence: psychological and social changes

Psychosocial changes. Linked to the hormonal and neurodevelopmental changes that are taking place are psychosocial and emotional changes and increasing cognitive and intellectual capacities. Over the course of the second decade, adolescents develop stronger reasoning skills, logical and moral thinking, and become more capable of abstract thinking and making rational judgements. Also, they are more able to take other people’s perspectives into consideration and often want to do something about the social issues that they encounter in their lives.

At the same time, adolescents are developing and consolidating their sense of self. With this increasing self-identity, including their development of sexual identity, comes growing concern about other people’s opinions, particularly those of their peers.

A photomontage

Also, adolescents want greater independence and responsibility. They increasingly want to assert more autonomy over their decisions, emotions and actions and to disengage from parental control.26 27 Their social and cultural environment importantly affects how adolescents express this desire for autonomy .

Younger adolescents may be particularly vulnerable when their capacities are still developing and at the same time they begin to move outside the confines of their families and start taking independent decisions—ranging from who they spend time with to what food they eat

Changes in the external environment. Changes taking place in the adolescent’s environment both affect and are affected by the internal changes of adolescence. These external influences, which differ among cultures and societies, include social values and norms and the changing roles, responsibilities, relationships and expectations of this period of life (see Section 5). These changes affect adolescents in their immediate environment of family, school and community but reflect a range of wider societal changes, including increasing urbanization, globalization and access to digital media and social networks.

While adolescents experience similar biological, cognitive and psychosocial developmental processes, the timing and influence of these processes depend on both individual characteristics and the environments in which they live, learn, play and work.


Adolescents on the meaning of health: To have the ability to do things well, without any sort of discomfort or pain. To ensure a comfortable future, without any complications like diabetes or any sort of cardiac disease, etc., caused by what was done in the past.

Gender not specified, 18–19, Mexico

Health is the basis for everything. If you want to study or work, you need to be in good physical and mental health.

female, 15-17, South Africa

Health is life. Being in good health allows you to really throw yourself into life.

female, 15-17, France

The proper functioning of one person is crucial for the society because our problems affect our behaviour, which will sooner or later affect the whole society.

trans, 12-14, Argentina

It is important because I want to live a long life, and I don't want to be restricted by any illness that would be the result of being unhealthy. I want to be a role model to children that I may have because I know how important it is to have someone that you can look up to and to motivate you to be healthy and to exercise.

female, 15-17, United Kingdom

Health is important to me because being in a state of complete health means being able to function at my full potential, and hence being able to perform at my best and contribute as much as I can to the activities I am involved in.

female, 15-17, Switzerland

Your health is not only your future but also the future of those around you. If I were to die at a young age, I would be unable to contribute to the economy or the population. An individual contracting a disease increases the risk of other individuals within that community contracting it. Therefore, it is important to keep healthy to ensure my safety and the safety of others.

female, 15-17, Saudi Arabia

Health is relative, based on the way you observe it. You can have a healthy body but an aching soul. I think it sums up to a balance of forces that make your body and mind work together to be able to experience freedom and with that, to create goals.

male, 15-17, Mexico

If you feel well, you produce, you contribute, you are happy and you create a positive social environment.

female, 18-19, Mexico